I still can’t believe that I have six races on my calendar in just as many weeks. Who am I!?! Clearly, I’m a little too ambitious.
With all of this race talk, I thought it would be helpful to share my race day routine since it can be equally exciting as it is nerve-wracking. Here’s how I maximize the enjoyment of race day without stressing out over too many of the details.
THE DAY BEFORE
Pick up my race packet
Picking up my race packet the day before always saves me so much time the following morning. It also makes me feel a lot more prepared and confident knowing that all I have to do is show up at the race and run it. Plus, if there are any issues, I can work them out the day before the race. Also, I’m more likely to get my desired race t-shirt size if I pick up my packet early.
Layout all of my equipment
Laying out all of my running equipment is a huge part of my planning process. I mentally dress myself from head to toe and grab each item as I go. Here’s a list of what I typically bring with me on long runs. On race day, I pretty much bring the same stuff– depending on the weather, of course. (Here’s what I wear on cold weather runs.)
Create a plan for the morning
I always stress out about being late and missing the start of the race, so I make sure to create a plan for the morning. This means that I:
- Double-check the start time of the race
- Get directions and figure how long it will take me to get there
- Map out where to park at the race
- Pick a time to leave the house, which will give me plenty of time before the race
Thinking about all of these logistics ahead of time helps minimize stressful situations on race morning. Plus, not worrying about these details allows me to focus on the race.
I always worry about drinking too much water on race morning because I don’t want to waste time by waiting in the never-ending restroom line. So, the day before the race, I make sure to guzzle water to help hydrate me for the following day.
It’s the worst when you get to the start line of a race only to realize that your Garmin or iPod is dead. The day before a race, I make sure to charge up all of my electronics needed for the next day.
Get some quality sleep… two nights before the race
The night before a race, I usually get the pre-race jitters, so I force myself to go to bed early. Even still, there are lots of times that I just can’t fall asleep no matter what I do. I don’t want a lack of sleep to influence my race performance, so I make sure to get some quality sleep two nights before the race.
Set two (or more) alarms
My biggest worry before a race is sleeping through my alarm and missing the start of the race, so I set two different alarms on my phone. I also double-check that the ringer is turned on and that my alarm is set for AM and not PM.
THE MORNING OF
On race morning, I eat my go-to breakfast of peanut butter and banana on whole wheat bread with an iced coffee, which gives me plenty of energy for the start of the race. This combo is easily digestible and doesn’t give me any stomach issues. I eat my breakfast about 2-3 hours prior to the race.
If you’re a new runner, make sure you experiment with different pre-run foods during your training to see what works (and doesn’t work) for you, so you are prepared for race day. I’m telling ya, you don’t want any surprises!
Even though I create a plan for the morning, there’s always the possibility that something can go wrong, so I arrive early to the race (usually about an hour before the gun start). I give myself plenty of time to find parking, wait in the line for the restroom, check my bag, warm-up, stretch, get mentally prepared, etc.
The start line at a race is crowded and a little crazy with so many people, paces, and corrals. In the past, I wasn’t sure of my running pace, so I’d line up near the middle/back of the pack, which is usually a good place for beginner runners. Occassionally, I’d overestimate my pace time, so I’d end up weaving in and out of runners, but I wasn’t slowing anyone down either.
Nowadays, I know my pace, so if the race has corrals or posted pace signs, I line up there. If not, I ask runners nearby about their anticipated pace. It makes the start of the race much less hectic.
Before the start of a race, I always get those nervous butterflies in my stomach. Then, I start to hear a little voice in my head that tells I might fail out there on the course. Before I know it, I start to question my training and physical abilities. So, now, I try to stay as positive as possible on race morning. I remind myself that I’ve trained well (trust your training!) and I WILL finish the race. Then, I take a deep breath and wait for the gun.
DURING THE RACE
I’m guilty of going out too fast at the start of a race. When I do this, my energy fizzles for the rest of the race, so I try to keep my pace steady for the first half of the race and then pick it up for the last part.
Look around and smile
When I’m really dogging it during a race, I look around and focus on the experience of running with whole bunch of strangers. It’s such a weird thing to do, but it’s also very inspirational. I love the we’re-all-in-it-together feeling.
I also boost my motivation by clapping for musicians along the course, high-fiving kids on the sidelines, and thanking volunteers at the water stops. Having this happy-go-lucky attitude always positively impacts my race day experience and my ability to push through to the end.
Use the water stops
I used to skip the water stops during a race, thinking that I’d lose precious time, but now I always take advantage of them, especially during long races. If I wait too long to hydrate myself, it always negatively affects my running, which slows me down in the end. Here’s what I do: I slow my pace, grab a cup of water, walk through the water stop, and catch my breath before running again. If you’ve never done this before, here are some tips on how to take water from a hydration stop.
Quick tip: If there are water stops on either side of the course, go for the one on the left. It’s often less crowded and easier to navigate.
Mantras are my saving grace during races. They motivate me, distract me from pain, and keep me focused. I use them when the going gets tough on my long runs too, so they become more automatic on race day. Here are my favorite running mantras.
Even if I feel like total crap at the end of the race, I always cross the finish line as strong as I can. At the end of the race, I want to know that I gave it everything I had.
AFTER THE RACE
Keep the momentum going
After I celebrate my post-race victory, I always end up thinking about the next race. I take advantage of my post-race runner’s high and keep the momentum going by setting new goals for myself and scoping out new races to run.
What are your race day tips?